Superhero Movie Month: "Thor" Review

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

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Rating: PG-13
Length: 115 minutes
Release Date: May 06, 2011
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Marvel Studios has experienced wild success with superhero films such as "Iron Man" and "Spiderman," but "Thor" takes a different approach to the genre as a fantasy film set in the mythical land of Asgard. The Norse god turned superhero becomes the subject of an epic tale of love and betrayal in this action-packed film starring Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman and many others. Featuring a well-paced plot, interesting characters and plenty of action, this unique film has become a wild success.

Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman, is a scientist conducting her research in the New Mexico desert with her two companions when a strange storm develops. When Jane and her colleagues drive over to investigate, they come across Thor, whose imposing appearance startles them. Audiences are then brought back to a time when the people of Asgard, a fantastical city filled with gods and magic, defeat the evil frost giants. As King Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins, tells this to his two young sons, he also explains that one of them would one day be king.

Years later, the blond-haired Thor is a strong, outgoing warrior, and the dark-haired Loki is intelligent and cunning. Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, is envious because Thor is about to be declared crown prince, but an intruder alarm halts the ceremony. Although Odin denies Thor's request to attack, he goes behind his father's back with Loki and several comrades to the land of the frost giants. The small battle leads to the declaration of all-out war against Asgard, so Odin banishes Thor along with the powerful hammer Mjolnir.

After taking Thor to the hospital, Jane attempts to understand the otherworldly man. Meanwhile, Mjolnir has hit the earth, leading the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. to fence off the area surrounding the immovable weapon. Thor convinces Jane to join him in stealing back Mjolnir, but an unexpected turn of events makes this impossible. As trouble stirs both on Earth and in Asgard, some of Thor's friends begin to suspect that Loki has something to do with it. It is then up to Thor to protect Jane and the rest of the people of Earth as well as to save his own kingdom from destruction.

"Thor" is an action-packed flick that combines thrill, romance, humor and suspense to create an entertaining adventure. The CGI world of Asgard is both visually stunning and believable, but the fantasy elements are somewhat pronounced for the tastes of some fans. From the sweeping cameras to the colorful effects, it is clear that this movie was designed to be viewed in 3D on a big screen.

The talented actors in "Thor" help to make the epic, unlikely story and unique characters completely believable. Chris Hemsworth fits the character of Thor perfectly, creating the perfect vocal intonation and physical presence worthy of a Norse god. Natalie Portman is stunning in her role, and Kat Dennings brings the perfect touch of humor to the screen. As always, Anthony Hopkins slips into his role completely, creating a very believable Odin. Tom Hiddleston, relatively unknown until his role as Loki, captures the attention of moviegoers with his sinister charm.

As with so many other Marvel superhero films, "Thor" takes place in a shared universe with movies like "Iron Man," "The Incredible Hulk" and "Captain America." Each of these films features a unique plot and style, but they are tied together in such a way that has allowed filmmakers to create "The Avengers," a mash-up of "Thor," "Iron Man" and several other Marvel superheroes. Despite this important link, "Thor" differs from most superhero movies in a number of ways.

First, the story does not take place primarily on Earth as many of the most prominent events in the movie take place in Asgard. Although this has obviously given filmmakers more freedom to create grandiose moments, unique characters and beautiful locations, some fans do not like the change of setting. This is because one of the primary draws of superhero movies is their relatability. However, the story weaves the two worlds together effectively, setting the stage for future Marvel films.

"Thor" is a worthy addition to the Marvel Studios lineup of superhero films, introducing a colorful cast of characters in a brave new world. The film did well at the box office, and despite not earning as much praise as films like "Iron Man," it continues to be a beloved favorite of superhero fans. The film was followed by "The Avengers" and its direct sequel "Thor: The Dark World," which were both well received.